Carson Palmer is back and the Arizona Cardinals are winning again.
Palmer threw three touchdown passes in his first game back from a torn ACL and the Cardinals opened their season with a 31-19 victory over the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.
Drew Brees threw for 355 yards, but the Saints had to settle for Zach Hocker’s field goals after four drives.
Arizona’s Andre Ellington rushed for 69 yards before being carted off with a right knee injury.
Palmer directed a nine-play, 80-yard touchdown drive after the opening kickoff, punctuated by a 10-yard TD pass to John Brown. The other two scoring passes came in the fourth quarter. Darren Fells made a 17-yard fingertip catch for one score and Arizona clinched it with Palmer’s 55-yard pass to rookie David Johnson with 1:33 to play.
Palmer, 14-2 in his last 16 starts, completed 19 of 32 passes for 307 yards with no interceptions.
Arizona was 8-1 when Palmer went down last season, 3-5 after that, including a wild card playoff loss with their third-string quarterback.
An injury to Ellington would be a tough blow after he played with a torn tendon in his left foot in 2014 before a core muscle injury ended his season.
Chris Johnson, a late free agent signing, relieved Ellington. But it was a third running back, David Johnson, who made the play that assured the win.
The fleet third-round pick out of Northern Iowa took a pass out of the backfield and used a burst of speed to run down the right sidelines to the end zone.
Fells, who played basketball at UC Irvine, caught four passes for 82 yards, the most in a game by a Cardinals tight end since 1989. Larry Fitzgerald had six catches for 87 yards.
Brees, trying to lead the Saints back from a 7-9 season, completed 30 of 48 passes with one touchdown and one interception.
In his first series since blowing out his knee, Palmer completed 5 of 6 passes for 62 yards. From the 10-yard line, Palmer rolled right and after checking off to receivers all over the field, found Brown open for the touchdown.
The already depleted New Orleans secondary took a blow when safety Rafael Bush, who had started in place of injured Jarius Byrd, left with a chest injury in the third quarter.
SOURCE: The Associated Press